Finishing Touches – The Festival of Quilts has it all!


This year’s show is all set to be bigger than ever, at least in my humble opinion because we have 400 workshops this year as well as trunk shows daily by Jenny Doan of Missouri Quilts. We’ve also got many other international stars eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for all things patchwork and quilting. But it doesn’t end there, we have classes on printing, dyeing, embroidery, felting and surface decoration by hand or machine – free motion embroidery and more.  There really is something for everyone, as you can see from the images below.

1. Cathy Wiggans USA_Dimensional Leather Panel

Learn how to sew texture and dimension on this 1 day academy class with Cathy Wiggins, creating a Dimensional Leather Panel.

2. Chantal Guillermet France_Indian Hand Embroidery

Chantel Guillermet will share how to sew several stitches used by Indian artists on this panel as well as how to embellish your work with shisha mirrors and sequins. (Indian Hand Embroidery, Quick and Easy class).

My particular passion is sewing with a sewing machine – using it to not just make my latest project, but also to utilise the wonderful stitches and feet that are available and to embellish with relish. I love to take a traditional patchwork quilt and add dimensions with hand stitching, buttons and more. So I am particularly happy that we have so many classes that involve surface decoration – utilising embroidery stitches and free motion – by hand and machine. So to get you in the mood, I thought I’d share some of my top tips on getting the most from your sewing machine.

3. Tamara Schultz Sweden_Steampunk Crazy Quilts Block or Pin Cushion

We have introduced Quick and Easy breakfast club classes starting at 9am this year. Try something different, such as this Steampunk Crazy Quilt block or Pin cushion with Tamara Schultz from Sweden.

4. herma de ruiter wonderfil stitching Academy

Have fun with decorative machine stitching and Wonderfil threads in this Academy class with Herma De Ruiter, The Netherlands (Wonderfil Stitching, Half day Academy class).

A bit of maintenance

Firstly, a gentle reminder to clean out the bobbin race regularly – particularly when you’ve been quilting with fibrous wadding! It is something that we all intend to do, but so often the next project beckons and it gets forgotten. A clean, dust and lint free bobbin race will help the machine sew, so much better! As will a fresh new needle. Skipped stitches are often the result of a blunt needle but worse can happen as a blunt needle can also snag delicate fabrics, causing unsightly runs! So definitely use a new needle with a new project – or every 8 hours of sewing.

5. Chris English_Sustainable Quilting Porthole Crumb Block

Sustainable sewing is such big news at the moment, join Chris English to create this Porthole Crumb block (Sustainable Quilting: Porthole Crumb Block Academy class).

6. Gai Taylor Australia_I Love Needlecase Wool Felt

Wool Felting is very popular too, combine it with hand stitching and embellishments like this project by Gai Taylor of Australia (I Love Needlecase: Wool Felt, Quick and Easy class).


Needle know how

Talking of needles, using the correct needle for the job can make all the difference. A lovely metallic thread will add a bit of glitter and glam to even straight stitch but some people are wary of these threads as they can shred. Use a Metallic needle and slow the machine down (if you have a sliding speed dial, set it to medium) or just go gently on the foot pedal. Metallic needles have a slightly larger and coated eye to cope with the metal in the threads. Metallic thread used in a standard needle may cut a slight nick in the eye of the needle, causing threads to shred. And metallic threads behave better if sewn at mid speed.

7. Linzi Upton_Longarm Quilting How to Eat an Elephant

We have a lot of long arm quilting workshops this year from Bernina and Handi Quilter. This amazing design is by Linzi Upton on a Bernina is a half day class (Long Arm Quilting: How to Eat An Elephant!).

8. Louise Jessup_Enriching Stitching

Explore stitched patterns by hand and machine to prepare a surface for a book cover or bag with Louise Jessup in a half day Academy class.

Another needle that is a must-have as far as I am concerned is a twin needle. These come in all the different needle types, from stretch and ball point, to embroidery and universal. They also come with different gaps between the needles, so typically, you may have an 80/12 1.6mm – which means it is a size 80/12 (standard for most woven fabrics) with a 1.6mm gap between the needles. For decorative stitching a 1.6 to 2mm gap is perfect. For top stitching, use one with a 3 or 4mm gap between the needles. Thread the two top threads together through the upper threading system, until you get to the last hook just above the needle eye. Thread one behind the hook and leave the other out so that they don’t tangle before the needle. Underneath the bobbin thread will zigzag between the top threads so always make sure you stitch with the right side of the work uppermost. You can use lots of the decorative stitches – they look really good if two different coloured top threads are used – just make sure that they are no wider than 5mm – adjust the width if necessary. That way you can be sure both needles will fit through the aperture in the presser foot and the throat plate. I do tend to check the stitch through the whole sequence by turning the balance wheel by hand before putting foot to pedal though!

9. Ami James_Vintage Botanical Stitching

Kantha Stitch is used on many projects to add hand stitched embellishment (Amy James, Quick & Easy Vintage Botanical Stitching).

10. Cindy Grisdela USA_Artful Improv

Artful Improv, Cindy Grisdela, USA.

You can also do some lovely pin tucks using the twin needle and a straight stitch. These make lovely surface decoration on a plain fabric border.

11. Jan Hassard_Curved Bargello Landscape

Curved Bargello Landscapes with Jan Hassard.

12. Jeltje Van Essen The Netherlands_Boxes Embellished with Stitchery

Boxes Embellished with Stitchery with Jeltje Van Essen from The Netherlands.

All change feet

I often find that students are also reluctant to change the presser feet, and often stick to what they know – keeping to the standard zigzag foot or quarter inch foot. But do use your open toe satin stitch foot or applique foot when sewing decorative stitches; it makes it easier to see what and where you stitching and the slight indentation on the underside will help glide over concentrated stitching. Also do make sure you back the fabric being sewn if using concentrated decorative stitches otherwise the fabric will pucker permanently. There are many types of stabiliser from the the traditional tear-away to solubles and even heat-away stabilisers. Of course, if you are adding embellishment to a quilt top you can add the wadding underneath first and that will not only stabilise the area but also provide more texture surface.

13. Jen Kingwell Australia_Shadow Moon

Shadow Moon with Jen Kingwell from Australia.

14. Jenni Stuart Anderson_Prog a Sampler Upcycle Fabrics with Rag Rugging

Try something different with Jenni Stuart Anderson and Prog a Sampler.

Quilters’ Guide

Most quilters will have used a walking foot when quilting but not everyone has used the quilter’s guide that so often accompanies the foot. In fact, it is often in the tool kit included with a sewing machine as it can also be inserted into the back of the ankle (presser foot holder) and used with other presser feet. But it is definitely an under-used gadget! It is a metal rod with curved end, that is inserted either into a gap at the back of the ankle or into the back of the walking foot. Having stitched one row, decide how close or far you want the next row and then move the guide in or out so it sits on the previous row of stitching with the chosen gap between guide and needle. You sew the next, and the next and the next row, getting perfectly parallel rows every time, (as you sew, keep the guide along the previous stitching). This little device is not just good for straight rows of quilting but also for row after row of decorative stitching when it can be difficult to remain straight as the needle moves side to side, back and forward creating a complex stitch. Using this metal rod running along the centre of the previous stitched row will ensure multi-rows in glorious colour all running parallel!

15. Jennie Rayment_Foldaway Fabric Play

Have Foldaway fabric Play with Jennie Rayment.

16. Lea McComas USA_Fused Applique Portrait

Lee McComas shares how to create a Fused Applique Portrait.

The show itself

As well as the whole host of workshops, there are also of course our lovely exhibitors who will be ready and waiting to sell the latest products, haberdashery, fabrics and machines to our international visitors who flock to the show. And the galleries that are such an integral part of the show must be seen to be believed this year. Full of inspiration and wonderful textile works, they help to make The Festival of Quilts what it is today. There is also a Festival Dinner celebrating The Guild’s 40th Birthday with Michael James as key note speaker (Thursday) and Fashion Show showcasing some wonderful garments from our Russian colleagues (Friday early evening) and as well as the Awards ceremony on Thursday and of course as mentioned earlier, 2-hour trunk shows from the renown Jenny Doan.

17. Youngmin Lee USA_Mosi Jogakbo Patchwork.jpg

Youngmin Lee comes from the USA to share Jogkbo Patchwork techniques.


How to get tickets

To preview the workshop programmes, click here to visit The Festival website and look for the Workshop PDFs. Booking of entry tickets and workshop tickets opens to Quilters’ Guild members on Monday 8th April and then to the general public on the 15th April. To book as a Guild member, log into the membership page of the Guild website. Full instructions and a discount code will be sent by post and email to you.

By Wendy Gardiner, Workshop Director, Festival of Quilts

As well as being the Workshop Director for Festival of Quilts, Wendy is author of 21 books on sewing, including The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible which is all about feet and needles and Fun with Fat Quarters published by Search Press. She is also a guest presenter for Create and Craft TV has just completed two more books for Search Press on using fat quarters. She also teaches regularly at different venues around the country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s